Somewhere along the line, it seems as if our common quest to seek out ideas that were fresh and original in cinema gave way to a deep-seated need to be comforted by the familiar. Sequels, prequels, spin-offs, adaptations, remakes, and reimaginings -- all of these things feed into a cycle of creative malaise that, while fleetingly satisfying in the moment, often proves to be less than gratifying upon later reflection. Fortunately, there are still some filmmakers out there who are willing to take the risk and challenge us.
Eden Log writer/director Franck Vestiel is just such a talent, following in the footsteps of such visionary filmmakers as Terry Gilliam and Chris Marker in delivering his debut feature, a dystopian nightmare that's alternately terrifying, intriguing, and confrontational without ever losing sight that its primary function is to entertain. The less said about the plot of Eden Log, the better. A man awakens in a darkened cave with no memory of who he is or how he got there. As our mud-caked protagonist makes his way through a series of winding tunnels and underground corridors, he discovers evidence of an advanced society living on the surface. But getting there won't be easy, because as he gradually works his way up, level by level, the confused man is pursued by grotesque sub-humanoid beings and black-clad guards, whose intentions, however unclear, seem less than benevolent. Soon, the man comes into contact with a woman, and must fight to contain his primal instincts while attempting to find a means of escaping this cavernous maze. Eden Log begins with a birth -- a man born into a mysterious new world -- and allows us to follow him on his quest for identity and meaning. It's not your typical sci-fi film; there's very little dialogue, the action is kept to a minimum, and the pacing is unapologetically deliberate, yet so thoroughly realized that it's entirely satisfying. From the opening shot to the unconventional credits sequence, it's obvious that Vestiel is more interested in leading us through a dark mystery than thrilling us with advanced special effects, yet there's still a wealth of unique visuals thanks to Thierry Pouget's tenebrous cinematography and Jean-Philippe Moreaux's inventive set design, which combine to create a world the likes of which has rarely been glimpsed in mainstream cinema. The intoxicating visual textures created by Pouget's and Moreaux's combined efforts are one of Eden Log's greatest strengths, in some ways giving the film the feel of a more accessible variation on E. Elias Merhige's technically brilliant yet painfully tedious debut, Begotten. Like Begotten, Eden Log commands our undivided attention, daring us to approach the film not as mindless escapism, but as an existential mystery for which answers never come easy. There will always be a wealth of movies that allow us the luxury of shutting off our brains, but for those times when it would actually do us some good to keep those synapses firing, films like continue to encourage speculation and debate while ensuring that our gray matter doesn't grow too soft. Eden Log
All Movie Guide - Jason Buchanan